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Madison 1976.143

Attic Red-Figure Lekythos The Painter of Palermo 4 ca. 480-470 B.C.

Lent by the Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur J. Frank (1976.143).

The Vase: h. 29 cm; max. d. 9.0 cm; d. of mouth 5.2 cm; d. of foot 6.9 cm. Intact; brush marks and slight streaking of glaze, misfiring on the reverse of body and foot; minor pitting and flaking under handle. Type 2 lekythos with fillet and incision between body and foot. Inside of neck glazed; pouring surface, edge and underside of foot reserved. The resting surface is flat except for a small, shallow conical depression at the center. Small vent above left wing of figure.

Decoration: Winged female figure strides right, carrying a fillet (in applied white, now faded) in her outstretched arms. The wings of the female extend onto the shoulder of the lekythos. The figure is positioned on a groundline composed of an uneven arrangement of pairs of stopped meander-patterns (r.), separated by a single cross-square, the corners filled (dotted) with an additional cross-square at the right end of the line. A thin band of close vertical strokes, with a reserved line above, accentuates the flare at the base of the neck. The figure wears an Ionic chiton and short himation, some of the folds of which, on the left sleeve and on the overfold, are in yellow dilute; the right sleeve is decorated with rows of x's between groups of pleats, the hem is bordered with a band of dots. Her hair is bound up with a dotted band. The tops of the wings are dotted. Around her right arm is a spiral bracelet. Thick relief lines: right thumb, lower edge of left sleeve, eyebrow, nape of neck, scalloped edges (top and bottom) of overfold and upper edge of right wing. The hair is outlined in reserve. Except in a few areas the figure is outlined in relief, giving sharp separation from the field. The figure's hands are reversed.

The concept of Nike, who the winged figure surely is, may have been accepted by the middle of the sixth century, because of the Panathenaic games, or before. The first Nike actually to be named on a vase is not until 530 B.C., on a Nikosthenic amphora now in Rome (Isler-Kerényi 1969, p. 32). She is a personification who brings the message of victory from the gods to the recipient, with great speed because of her gift of flight. In early Greek literature and thought, her identity and genealogy are confused: in Hesiod (Hes. Th. 383-384) she is the daughter of the Titan, Pallas, while in the Orphic Hymn 88, 4f., Ares is named as her father. In Bacchylides (Bacchyl. 11.4ff. she is a messenger of Zeus, the ultimate giver of victory, later, she became the embodiment of victory herself, eventually to be worshipped as a goddess (first at Elis in the mid-fourth century B.C.). Some feel her origin in Greek art can be traced to Near Eastern influence where winged mythological types are more common (Akurgal 1966, 183-195). In red-figure vase-painting, she appears frequently after the Persian Wars, ca. 479 B.C., visible clarion of civilization's defeat of the Persian barbarian. On these vases she is often shown carrying prizes to the victor — amphora, fillet, tripod or wreath — or, in some instances, sacrificial implements so that the recipient may return in proper measure the favor that the gods have bestowed (cf. the Nikai on the column krater, Chicago 1889.16). For a most recent discussion of Nike: Isler-Kerényi 1969.

This is certainly the lekythos which is added to the work of the Painter of Palermo 4 in Para. It has been claimed that the vase was painted by the Pan Painter, who is careless and clumsy at times, but never like this; the line alone could not be his. Two standard-type lekythoi near the Pan Painter, Oxford 313 and Oxford 314 (ARV2, 560, nos. 6 and 7), may have prompted the attribution: the maeander and cross-square borders, the winged Nikai, chitons decorated with x's and upper wings dotted, spiral bracelets, hair similarly bound up, the long lines of the chins. They are of course contemporary, and so is a lekythos in Palermo recalling the Triptolemos Painter (ARV2, 367, below) to whom Beazley saw a resemblance in the Oxford vases (CVA, GB 3, Oxford 1, pl. 33). The Triptolemos Painter has connections with Douris, and so does the Cartellino Painter whose lekythos, Athens 1633 (ARV2, 452, no. 4), has a flavor of the Elvehjem one, although it is decorated somewhat differently. The decoration of the Athens lekythos is typical of the so-called BL Class, from a large long-lived workshop which produced both black-figure and red-figure lekythoi — that of the Athena and Bowdoin Painters. One of the characteristics of BL decoration is the band of bars on the neck instead of the more usual tongues. The bars on the Elvehjem lekythos, and on others by the Painter of Palermo 4, and the resemblance in style to the Bowdoin Painter's own work (cf. Kurtz 1975, pl. 15) make it likely that the Painter of Palermo 4 had some connection with that shop, although Beazley had not actually formed the painter's oeuvre by detaching it from the Bowdoin Painter, as Arias implies in EAA, v, 873 (see J.D. Beazley, Greek Vases in Poland [Oxford 1928] 18f. and 79, addendum to p. 19). Another contemporary artist who painted lekythoi of the BL type is the Providence Painter. His Nike on a lekythos in (New York 07.286.67: ARV2, 641, no. 90) spreads her wing across the shoulder of the vase like the Elvehjem Nike does. This was habitual for winged figures on lekythoi with undecorated shoulders (Caskey & Beazley, 41).

The Elvehjem lekythos is a small window with a big view onto a major workshop of lekythos painters with which some of the most important artists of the time can be linked, no matter how different their styles. The view includes a glimpse of the interactions in the potter's quarter of Athens, which must have been a close but not closed community.

For reversed hands: M. Robertson, JHS 74 (1954) 229-230. For the Painter of Palermo 4, ARV2, 310. For relationships between the Triptolemus Painter and Douris, ARV2, 360; between Douris, the Cartellino Painter, and the Bowdoin Workshop, Kurtz 1975, 25, between the Providence Painter and the Bowdoin workshop, Kurtz 1975, 43.


Ars Antiqua AG Lucerne, Auktion (June 1966) no. 77, and pl. XIV; Para., 358, above, no. 4 bis.

W.G.Moon, L.Berge

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Bacchylides, Epinicians, 11
    • Hesiod, Theogony, 383-384
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